Companies plan to maintain or increase their social media investment

A recent Deloitte study found that of over 400 companies surveyed, including both smaller businesses and Fortune 100 companies, 94% planned to maintain or increase investments in their social media communities. This is great news if for no other reason than it implies that companies are starting to see social media as a real investment rather than a quick fix. As AdAge stated in their "Ten Things Social Media Can't Do" article today, social media cannot be approached as a short-term project. Far too many companies make the mistake of throwing up a Facebook page and waiting for a flood of fans, or otherwise find that their goals for the first few months of their social media campaign were set too high. Engaging your fan communities online takes time, especially if you're building those communities from scratch. This isn't to say that you can't have a truly innovative campaign that goes viral, accomplishing a huge amount of buzz in a short period of time - it's just not the norm. If you're expecting immediate results, you might be sorely disappointed. And it would be a shame to dismiss social media so quickly before having the chance to realize its full potential! Yet, according to the Deloitte survey, many companies are still struggling to successfully engage with their customers. Here are a few tips to keep your audience interested and measure returns on your social media spend:

- Ask them what they want! One of the easiest ways to find out what interests your audience is to ask them. Maybe they prefer recipe ideas over coupons for your food products, or are just looking for a place to share the pictures they took with your camera. You might never know until you ask!

- Address all customer complaints, questions, and comments. Most know that when you don't answer a complaint, you're basically telling your fan base, "I don't care". When you don't thank customers for complimentary comments, you're saying the same thing. Acknowledge all interactions with your company so customers know their contributions are valued.

- Attach platform-specific discount codes to your promotions. The easiest way to measure ROI on sales from social media efforts is to attach platform-specific promotion codes, enabling you to track sales to your Facebook as separate from your Twitter, website, or other network.